Donor Conception

Talking to Your Donor-Conceived Child About Their Origins Doesn’t Need to be Daunting

Eloise Edington  |   19 Jan 2022

Have you ever planned to tell someone something but the more you thought about it the more worried you became?  Difficult conversations crop up across all areas of life: telling your partner you want to end the relationship, a TTC friend you’re expecting (click here for tips) or your donor-conceived child about their origins.  These don’t necessarily need to be challenging conversations.

So if you’re looking for support in telling your surrogate or donor-conceived child about their story, read on.  We share tips on talking to donor-conceived children and take a look at customisable storybooks by Sensitive Matters, which ease tricky conversations with donor-conceived children.

Written by Holly Pigache

Be honest: Are you avoiding it?

Whilst many parents (or hopeful parents) of donor-conceived children fully intend to be truthful, sharing your child’s story with them is daunting.  In fact, 68% of our FHH Instagram community (follow us here) felt anxious about telling donor-conceived children about their origins.  When do you tell them?  What do you say?  How do you bring up the conversation?  How will they respond?  Perhaps you make excuses as to why the time isn’t quite right yet or promise yourself you’ll tell your child at a certain time/age/place. 

Taking time to consider what you’re going to say and anticipate possible outcomes is helpful but be honest with yourself if this is an avoidance tactic.

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What’s the expert advice?

Over the past 20 years, the professional advice about raising donor-conceived children has shifted.  Previously, experts in donor-conception believed donor-conceived children’s origins should be hidden from them.  This is no longer the preferred thinking.

Time and time again, research has shown that donor-conceived individuals are more likely to be negatively affected by the truth of their story if they find out later in life.  By having a narrative shrouded in secrecy, donor-conceived individuals attach shame to their story and shame is deeply detrimental to our sense of self; laying a foundation for a swarm of psychological complications.  

This isn’t to say children who find out they’re donor-conceived later in life develop depression, low self-worth or anxiety but that speaking with children about their origins early in life helps them develop into well-balanced adults.

So how can I talk to my donor-conceived child?

Firstly, you decide to just begin.  Founder of Sensitive Matters, Sali Odendaal says, “If you start the telling early, it is actually really simple.”  Telling your child about their origins from a young age means more information can slowly be incorporated into the narrative as your child develops and their understanding cements.

Enter our exciting giveaway here before 17th February to be in for a chance to win a customisable “Magic of You” storybook.

If you’re not sure where to start, consider a storybook.  The Magic of You storybooks by Sensitive Matters make talking about donor-conception much easier.  Each story is customised to your unique family scenario with photos or avatars (depending on your choice of book) to bring the story to life in a customised way.  Names can be added and changed and text can be altered to fit the discussions you have at home.  Importantly, Sensitive Matters have books to fit any family scenario: solo parents, same-sex parents, donor-egg conception, sperm donor conception, surrogacy, adoption, foster parents and many other family set-ups.

Children of all ages love stories, especially when they relate to the characters within the pages and by reading a customised story, children more readily grasp the narrative.  

Related: To find out more about how to create a customised storybook for donor-conceived children, you can read our article here.

Advice from parents of donor-conceived children

FHH Founder, Eloise suggests:

  • Short bursts: Talk to your children about their origin story little and often.
  • Don’t make it laborious: if your children aren’t engaged in what you’re saying, don’t push it.
  • Don’t be afraid to mess up the language.
  • Telling from a young age helps you practise the narrative.
  • Young children won’t have the cognitive development to understand the genetics of family-building.  They might say things like, “We don’t know who he is, do we?”  Talking about genes isn’t necessary when your child is very young.
  • When children see photos of themselves in a storybook, they find it exciting, engaging and comforting.  They can relate to people they love within the pages.
  • Customisable story books also offer a way of involving and educating extended family members about the narrative your immediate family uses.

If you’d like to purchase a beautiful book for donor-conceived children, FHH readers get an exclusive 15% off until the end of February 2022 when using code FHH15 at checkout.  Click here to buy a the photo book and here to buy the avatar version.

The books are printed and shipped worldwide.

Founder of Sensitive Matters, Sali, says of her donor-conceived child:

“Max loved his book when I first read it to him and was fascinated by the photos of himself as a baby.  He still regularly chooses it as his bedtime story.   Although he is still too young to understand the concepts of conception, he accepts that there were others involved in his making. For now, this is enough and we’ll expand the story and discussion each year as he gets older.  I started reading him the book when he was almost three years-old, and this made it really easy since at that age, the pictures were of most interest.  I think the earlier you start, the less of a hurdle it is as the parent.”

Continuing the narrative

When children are young, storybooks are a helpful route into difficult conversations but it’s important to remember it’s not a case of telling your donor-conceived child about their origins once and then it’s done.  The Magic of You books allow parents to return to their child’s unique story again and again.

Telling your donor-conceived child they’re donor-conceived may not be the easiest conversation to have but it certainly doesn’t have to be the hardest.  Having a secure foundation of where to start will help make talking to your donor-conceived child so much easier for you and more understandable for them.  

“The important thing is to start now,” Sali reminds us.  As children grow up, you may feel apprehensive about using the “right” language and Sensitive Matters have plenty of polls, interviews and resources with donor-conceived people on their Instagram.  (Follow Sensitive Matters here for further guidance.)  “As their understanding develops, your child will have questions and you may decide you need the help of other resources.”  Until then, The Magic of You is an ideal way to get you started.  Importantly, customisable storybooks about donor-conception help you tell your story, not a generic one.

Watch FHH Founder Eloise speak with Sali Odendaal at Sensitive Matters below.

To grab an exclusive 15% off these storybooks for donor-conceived children, use code FHH15 at checkout until the end of February 2022.  Click here to buy a the photo book and here to buy the avatar version.

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